Environment-friendly plastics from corn
Making corn-derived plastics more heat-tolerant may broaden the range of applications for which corn-derived plastics could be used as an alternative to petroleum-based plastics and research is underway to that end.
Source: The Hindu, September, 09, 2010.
More surprises from bacteria
Scientists identified a new way of surveying microbes for metal - containing proteins found several unexpected metals in Pyrococcus furiosus, a bacteria such as lead, manganese and molybdenum. Their research will help for complete understanding of the far-reaching roles of microbial metals in biology and the Earth’s climate.
Atlantic sea turtles hit by fungal egg infection
Atlantic sea turtles are under threat from an infection which targets eggs.The fungus Fusarium solani, a strain representing over 45 phylogenetic and biological species, may be key to the 30-year decline in turtle numbers.
Source: The Hindu, Nov 04, 2010
Urine: Waste product or future power source !
Researchers at Bristol Robotics Lab (BRL), are looking into the use of urine as the ‘Fuel’ for microbial fuel cells (MFCs). Urine is rich in nitrogen, urea, chloride, potassium and bilrubin that could be used by bacterial cultures to power the MFCs to generate energy. MFCs are a developing technology used to power autonomous robots.
Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos holds a microbial fuel cell.
Image Credit: University of the West of England
First known bacteria able to thrive using Arsenic
Phosphorus is a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells(ATP) and also a part of chemical backbone of DNA and RNA. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth. Researchers discovered new bacteria, the Gammaproteobacteria (strain GFAJ-1) from the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California able to thrive and reproduce using the chemical arsenic. It substitutes arsenic for phosphorous in its cell components.
Gammaproteobacteria (strain GFAJ-1) grown on arsenic
Image Credit: NASA
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‘Titanic’ fast food for bacteria
In the deep: Bow railing of R.M.S. ‘Titanic' showing rusticles.
The wreckage of the Titanic on the ocean floor will soon disappear as it is being fast eaten up by a newly discovered bacteria, according to Canadian researchers.The Titanic, which was the largest passenger ship at the time, sank on its maiden journey from England to New York April 14, 1912, after hitting an iceberg in mid-Atlantic. Of the 2223 passengers on board, only 706 survived.
Henrietta Mann, a Canadian civil engineering Professor at Dalhousie University, says the new bacterial species are eating away the wreckage so fast that soon the Titanic will be reduced to a “rust stain” on the ocean bottom.
“Perhaps if we get another 15 to 20 years out of it, we're doing good. Eventually there will be nothing left but a rust stain,” she said.“In 1995, I was predicting that Titanic had another 30 years, but I think it's deteriorating much faster than that now”. Using DNA technology, Mann and Bhavleen Kaur from Dalhousie University and researchers from the University of Sevilla in Spain identified a new bacterial species collected from rusticles from the Titanic wreck, a statement by the researchers said.
Dark orange in colour, a rusticle is a formation of rust similar in shape to an icicle or stalactite. The wreck is covered with the knob-like mounds, formed as a ‘consortium' of at least 27 strains of bacteria, including Halomonas titanicae, making a meal out of Titanic. But unlike icicles which are solid and hard, rusticles are porous and allow water to pass through. Indeed, they are rather delicate and will eventually disintegrate into fine powder.
“It's a natural process, recycling the iron and returning it to nature,” said Mann who studies extreme environments.The Titanic's final resting was discovered by a joint American-French expedition in 1985, almost 73 years after its sinking. The wreck is located 3.8 kilometres below the ocean surface and some 530 kilometres southeast of Newfoundland (Canada).The discovery confirmed that the ship had split apart as the stern and the bow were located 600 metres apart from each other and are facing in opposite directions, the statement said. In the 25 years since the discovery of the wreck, Titanic has rapidly deteriorated, according to Mann.
Source: The Hindu, Dec 09, 2010.